Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Screeners: Your First Line Of Review

Screeners are tools, usually found online, to assist the investor in filtering and sifting through the huge number of financial instruments using parameters, such as financial ratios, regions/countries, sectors/industry, etc. It is a very handy tool to start off looking for potential securities to invest in.

There are a number of screeners available on the internet. Some are free of charge, some are paid services, while others are somewhere in-between (i.e. getting basic information for free but require payment if you want to know more). The main difference between paid and free screeners is that the former tends to have almost all of the information and/or more in-depth parameters available within their one-stop platform (so-called data or information aggregation), with a majority of them providing graphics for data visualization. While one may argue that we are in the age of Googling and such data can be easily obtained without paying for it, the compromise would be the time spent in looking for them, as compared to giving a fee to save time and effort in finding and calculating the required figures.


Most screeners have one thing in common: they have an interactive interface for the investor to input and/or select the parameters and criteria. After these are keyed in, a list of counters which fit the bill will be displayed. Not all screeners, however, are built equal. There are those which are country specific, and there are those that cover only certain financial instruments, especially exchange traded funds (ETFs). Some screeners tried to be jack-of-all-trades and cover everything but lost out to certain niche screeners that have more coverage and relevance.


Here is a list of (free) screeners that I usually use in my research on equity, REIT and ETF securities. Bear in mind there are other good screeners, too, so this list is not exhaustive:


  • Yahoo Finance. My first go-to site to view ratios and summaries, Yahoo Finance has an extensive equity screener that covers a number of parameters (from the simple price-to-book ratio to the Altman Z Score) which I think is more than sufficient for a basic overview. They have other screeners for mutual funds, futures and ETFs, though for the latter I would prefer to use others (see below). Look out for “Screeners” in the main page heading.
  • SGX. Our very own Singapore Exchange has screeners for stocks, ETFs and structured warrants (from the main page header, Securities > Prices & Screeners) that are listed in itself.
  • Stockscafe. Stockscafe is a one-man, homegrown site and I used it to track Bob’s Bedokian Portfolio. It contains a screener that covers the United States, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong markets. The screener is available for use once you sign up a free account with Stockscafe.
  • ETF.com and ETFDB.com. For ETFs that are primarily listed in the United States, I would use either of these two sites to do my screening. In my opinion these screeners are more comprehensive than the ones mentioned above since they focus solely on ETFs, and their screeners included expense ratios, asset classes, number of holdings, etc. For ETF.com the screener is under ETF Tools & Data > ETF Screener & Database header while for ETFDB.com, the screener is located under Tools > ETF Screener header.
  • REITData and REIT Oracle. Though technically they are not screeners, they instead provide a one-look-can-see-all list of the locally listed REITs in a table form, and you could sort the various headers like gearing and yield in ascending or descending order to make comparisons. Furthermore, REIT Oracle provide information on other REITs listed in Malaysia and Thailand. For REITData, it also contains information on non-REIT trusts such as NetLink and Keppel Infrastructure Trust. 


Caveat And Conclusion


The use of screeners is just one part of your overall fundamental analysis process and it should not be the only determinant in your transaction decision. Further research and analysis are necessary such as looking deeper at the ratios, the sector and industry, the overall economic conditions, and geopolitical and natural factors at play. Sometimes different screeners may produce different numbers on the same stock/ETF/REIT, due to the source of the data and/or the basis of the ratio calculations, therefore warranting a more careful review.


Cheers and happy screening!

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